Why You Should Throw Out Your Business Plan

Business plans, in the traditional sense, aren't agile enough to keep up with the speed in which the world of business moves and disruptive technologies that pose an existential threat for your organisation; find out why throwing out your business plan should be part of your attack plan for 2020 and beyond.

Today we’re going to be talking about a piece from none-other-than Tony Robbins, a powerhouse in the self-improvement and motivation sector. In his piece titled “Throw Out Your Business Plan” which you can access here. In the piece, Tony argues that in order to stay agile and competitive in a rapidly-changing environment, organisations should relinquish the tight grip on their business plan, in favour of a business map that acts as a guidebook or map of sorts, rather than a restrictive plan that might restrict new, potentially profitable opportunities for the organisation.

“The only true competitive advantage in today’s changing market and economy is not having a business plan, but a business map that can take you from where you are to where you want to be.” - Tony Robbins.

So then, in the wider sense, he’s not arguing at all that you should consider throwing out the logistical underpinnings of your organisation’s vision, mission statement and business plan, but should begin to look at your operations in a macro sense, rather than a hyper-limited micro sense. “The pace of change in the professional world has accelerated to the point where a business plan is no longer the plot to the future of your company with any certainty,” he writes. “Disruptive technologies or unexpected competitors can come along and displace your business overnight.” We can see by this statement that Robbins is no stranger to the world of innovation, and realises the potential that an emerging and disruptive company or industry can have on an organisation’s existing business plan.

“With things moving so quickly in the digital world, how do you position your business in this hyper-competitive environment? You create a business map,” he says.

At this point, it’s worthwhile pointing out that the most basic principles of your vision statement and business plan should remain at the core of your business map, but Robbins argues it’s also important to ask yourself - and the powerbrokers in your organisation - a set of questions. Question one: what business are you in? “And then drill a little deeper,” he says. “For instance, what business is Starbucks in? Most people would say the coffee business. But ask Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, and he will likely tell you about his trip to Italy… He knew his business was about creating an experience, not just delivering coffee. Starbucks is now a global phenomenon because its founder knew the store would thrive if positioned as an inviting meeting space, not just another coffee bar.”

From here, you ask two more pivotal questions: what business are you really in, and how is business? Robbins argues that “having a business map really means framing your business in terms that enable you to see opportunities (and threats) that you might otherwise overlook. In this way, a business map is more comprehensible than a business plan, and more accommodating, as it allows for changes and obstacles along the way. Knowing what business you’re really in means having a deep and thorough understanding of your customer and the value they gain from you.”

“Knowing what business you’re really in means having a deep and thorough understanding of your customer and the value they gain from you.”

The premise of this argument is that when you and everyone else in the organisation understands the philosophy behind your organisation, you’re set to deliver more value to your customers than any of your competitors in the market. “You’ll have certainty about what areas of your business needs to grow now, and you’ll be better able to steer your organisation in accordance with that vision. Most importantly, you’ll understand what business you need to be in to become the dominant force in your market.”

Next up, ask yourself why you got into this business in the first place, and why you’re in it now? If either of those answers is different from the other, it’s pretty clear that a road map would have proved more useful than a more rigid, strict business plan that doesn’t necessarily facilitate flexibility and adaptation. “Running a business takes a lot of energy if you’re going to make it truly successful,” he says. “That energy can get worn out, but if you have a reason and a vision behind your business that you’re truly passionate about, you’ll be able to stay focused and succeed. This vision can be nearly anything, but to be truly empowering, it has to ensure that you’re serving a greater cause than yourself. Harness that passion to keep you moving forward.”

From here, you’ve got two steps to go: asking yourself who you are, who your current clients are, and what their needs are. This helps your organisation to better align your outputs and role in the market with the desires of consumers, and build trust. “Think about the very real client who you currently serve and what they need from you. What can your business specifically provide for them? How can you enhance their lives in some way?,” he says. Then, you determine where you sit in the wider market and economy, and how you can best prepare for the ‘next season’. “In order to succeed, it is vital that you do the right thing at the right time. The most important thing you can do is understand where you are now and identify current opportunities. Be objective when assessing your current role in the market and being thinking about what you need to do to get ahead of the curve for the next season,” he writes.

Finally, you should use all the data - the answers - from the questions you’ve posed to your organisation, and begin feeding this into your road map for the future. “Strive to always make progress and work as a strategic innovator,” he says, and this is a great mindframe to be making decisions for the future as you’re more likely to anticipate changes in the market and lessen the damage a potential disrupting technology or competitor can wreak on your organisation.

As I mentioned earlier in the piece, the idea here isn’t to throw your strategic planning into the trash- quite the opposite, actually. We’re talking more specifically about making your planning more pointed, more agile and more facilitating of drastic changes that can transform the landscape overnight.

Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the next piece.

Kobi Simmat.

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